Fate of affordable housing units to be decided
In an ongoing court case between a Buckhorn Ranch homeowner and the developers of the affordable housing project Stallion Park, the Gunnison District Court has issued a summary judgment affirming that the developers did not have Stallion Park properly approved.
The developers say it’s a small victory and much remains to be determined at a trial set for January 2008.
Stallion Park is located within Buckhorn Ranch, a fly-in, fly-out development approved by Gunnison County to contain nearly 248 lots. The subdivision is off Brush Creek Road, approximately one mile south of Crested Butte.
As a condition of the development’s approval, Gunnison County required that 32 affordable housing units be included in the Buckhorn Ranch subdivision. Brookside Custom Homes began construction on the Stallion Park affordable development in 2005.
Buckhorn Ranch homeowner Michael Weiner filed a civil lawsuit in Gunnison District Court on November 2, 2006, requesting the removal or relocation of the buildings in Stallion Park, which he says are in violation of the subdivision’s protective covenants.
On October 23, Gunnison District Court judge Steven Patrick made a summary judgment in agreement with two out of six of Weiner’s claims. Weiner did not include the other claims in the request for summary judgment.
“It was no great victory for them,” says Dick Landy, the developer of Buckhorn Ranch named in the case along with Justin Feder, developer of Stallion Park, and their respective businesses, Brush Creek Airport, LLC and Brookside Custom Homes, Inc.
Landy says they had the authority to proceed with the construction of Stallion Park, which will be proven at trial. As for the summary judgment on the claim that the buildings are in violation of Buckhorn’s protective covenants, Landy says Weiner is attempting to settle as much of his case as possible before the trial date.
A local attorney for Weiner, Peter Bogardus, says a summary judgment makes trial more efficient and puts pressure on the other side to settle. “If there are no disputes regarding material fact, then the issue is ripe for summary judgment,” Bogardus says. “You ask for summary to narrow the focus of what’s going to happen at trial.”
Feder says that on October 2 he won his own summary judgment against Weiner making a claim on his house. In addition to his claims against Stallion Park, Weiner also claimed that Feder’s house was constructed without the approval of the Buckhorn design review board.
“Weiner was so concerned about Stallion Park he threw my own house in the lawsuit,” Feder says. The court ruled that not only was Weiner too late to make this claim, but Feder did in fact have his residence properly approved.
In the summary judgment for Weiner’s claim involving the covenants, Patrick states Landy and Feder cited a separate design review board specifically made for Stallion Park, which approved the project. “Assuming that this separate association was formed, however, the court agrees with (Weiner) that such an entity was not legally authorized to approve the plans for Stallion Park,” Patrick writes.
Landy says, “(Weiner) won on summary judgment that the entire (Buckhorn) design review board had not signed off on it, but we were authorized to proceed on that area.” He says months of public meetings where a complaint could have been made are being ignored in the case.
The judge also ruled that Weiner will be paid for some damages, Bogardus says.
Buckhorn Ranch Homeowners Association president Grant Bremer says according to the Buckhorn covenants, the judgment means Landy and Feder will have to pay Weiner’s legal fees.
“All he had to do was get that one base hit to get his legal fees paid, and he did,” Bremer says.
With the developers now facing even more costly legal fees, Bogardus says an upcoming mediation session could be an opportunity to hear a settlement.
Bogardus and Bremer agree that unless something is resolved during mediation or a settlement is made, much remains to be determined during a trial.
Landy says the buildings of Stallion Park are not in danger of being relocated or removed, especially with people living in them. “I feel any reasonable judge is going to look at this situation and not order the destruction of the best affordable housing in all of Colorado,” Landy says. Although not a part of the summary judgment, Weiner is also asking the court to include complaints about the general Buckhorn Ranch infrastructure at trial, according to Bogardus.
The district court has not decided if Weiner can add more complaints to his initial lawsuit but Landy argues it would be unfair so late in the litigation.
In addition, Feder says it is unfair to make complaints about an unfinished product. “Weiner is filing a motion complaining about infrastructure that has never been completed for the first time,” Feder says.
Landy says, “Gunnison County carefully monitors the quality and quantity of infrastructure out there. They’re making sure everything is done right.” Landy says he’s proud of the development and considers it a great place to buy a home, but, “no good deed goes unpunished.”
Landy says he conducted a poll of Buckhorn Ranch and Stallion Park homeowners, and found 70 out of 113 wanted to end the lawsuit.
Bremer says the Homeowners Association isn’t actively involved in the case, but was named by Weiner as a secondary plaintiff. “We stated that we are neutral, only to be involved as far as being kept abreast of any motions,” Bremer says.
Unless a settlement is reached during the mediation session this week, the trial case is scheduled to begin on January 14, 2008 in Gunnison District Court.